Triple Stroke Roll

Triple Stroke Roll

Introduction To Practising Around Something

One way to achieve learning a new drum riff or motif, like a triple stroke roll, is to practice related exercises – not the actual figure itself.

The triple (or 3) stroke roll will be approached using the method of “practicing around something”.

They say that when you enter an institute of higher learning you begin to be aware of “how” they study. In my drum practicing sessions, I find that I learn new things not by constant drilling of the actual beat or fill I want to master, but in practicing figures related to it. This method is effective in other ways as well. For example in combating boredom, opening the mind, and gaining all-around skill as a drummer.

Drummer playing a drum kit

Table of Contents

How to Begin Learning the Triple Stroke Roll Physically and Emotionally

“Triple Stroke Roll”. When I first saw that term written down and I realized that such a thing existed, I shuddered inside. At first the idea seemed impossible. As I thought about it, I realized that recently I’d been “naturally” leaning that way.

For example, doing one-handed 4-stroke fills on the floor tom. I used my childhood experience when first learning the double-stroke roll. My stick held high, I let it fall on the practice pad for a 3-stroke bounce.

This was repeated with the other hand. I kept the stick grip and hands very loose with the stroke not much controlled because in the very beginning it is the bounce and the feel of the bounce which matters most.

Goals Along The Way

I tried to achieve 3 individual goals which together would make one large whole:

  1. Maintain the feel of the triple bounce
  2. With each hand
  3. While maintaining as much as possible a consistent rhythm

When learning something brand new, you should be OK with, and accept small goals.

Half of our problems will be solved if we are patient with ourselves and desire (or at least accept) a humble goal for that particular moment. Developing this kind of attitude is very important, if only because it can help us to not quit playing. It’s easy to enjoy playing when we have the skill to be able to play. Then there is the other 85% of our musical life. It is in our interest to make practicing enjoyable.

The only road I know toward that is to accept the awkward beginning process, and middle stage of not-quite-there-yet.

Snare Drum - Triple Stroke Roll


Another way of looking at it during the awkward and middle stages, is to suspend having expectations of yourself regarding your ultimate goal. It’s a tricky balance, because we want to keep our eyes on the prize. When you’re fixing leaky pipes or bumming out at your day job, that’s an ideal time for mental practice. Your beacon-goal shines and beckons you on.

It’s a great attitude during practise too – but during practise I encourage you to squelch that agitation and impatience. It only saddens and frustrates you and stops you from doing the work you know you need to so that you can gain your prize.

I find more enjoyment during those learning stages through acceptance. Even when hearing and executing riffs, beats, and rudiments done very slowly at that awkward stage, and at the mid-tempo not-quite-there-yet stage.

Examples of 3 Stroke Figures

Practising around something means that you look at the figure itself in multiple ways. The 3 stroke figure can be written or thought of as:

  1. 8th notes like this: (notation example 1 & 2
  2. Straight 16th notes (notation example 1 & 2)
  3. Triplets (notation example)
  4. A modified drag ruff (notation example)
  5. An inverted modified drag ruff (notation example)
  6. A straight 16th note figure ala William Tell Overture (1 & ah)
  7. A swung shuffle

Numbers 4-7 above are optional. They might even hinder you from executing the even strokes. They are listed because one of you out there may only be able to catch onto a different way of thinking about it.

Artist/Band - Songstuff Music Community Join

Practising the 3 Stroke Figure Itself

After the stage of awkward bouncing very slowly, begin focusing on control of the bounce. Control, strength, authority. Follow alternate hands again, set the metronome, and do the following, without changing meter: in 4, 8 or 16 bar phrases, mixing it up according to either what needs attention, what gives you the best feel, etc.:

  • * 8th notes (1 & 2)
  • * 16th notes (1 e &)
  • * triplets

Your metronome will have to be set at a slow enough tempo to be able to hit those 16th notes. It’s important during the beginning and middle stages to return to the slow 8th notes. Use them as a home base and check-in for that nice bounce feel. Mixing up the rhythms with triplets is almost dogma for me at this point. I do it with almost everything I practice. I continue to find it a challenge (and fun) to maintain a steady meter. (* See bottom “A Personal Note on Metronome, Enjoyment and Distractions“)

Practising the Above with One Hand

For the triple stroke roll, practicing the bounce in triplets is the figure. Practicing with one hand in triplets is akin to sprinting for a long distance runner. Those short bursts of constant drilling should strengthen you. Back off the tempo once you’re aware of shoulders, hands or arms becoming distractingly tight.

Middle Stages

This is the point where you are getting close to that magical leap into true multiple-stroke rolling. Go for simultaneous increased speed, control and bounce. Practice the actual figure but first make it easy on yourself. Tight surfaces: high hat closed shut with a firm foot, outer edges of your snare or toms. Give yourself a break, check in at home base with your nice controlled bounce feel, then relax and explore your kit alternate hands, hitting outer edges of toms and snare, hi hat, rims, in straight triplets. Enjoy the sounds and flow, no metronome.

One Handed Related Figures

You can practice around the three stroke roll using the following figures (remember to also practice each with alternate sticking – ie begin with the other hand):

Alternate Hand Related Figures

Practise around the 3 stroke roll using the following figures:
(I like the first exercise best, for maintaining the exquisite triplet feel, which also contains its own home base for the bounce because it includes double strokes)

  • * 1 bar phrase in 16th notes: L L L R R R L L R R R L L L R R
  • * Triplet figure followed by 2 over 3 8th notes (notation example) LLLRL RRRLR
  • * A Triplet figure followed by 1 count 16th notes (notation example) LLLRLRL RRRLRLR

As ever, these can be applied to one surface or multiple drums. And, do use your metronome (more than occasionally).

A Note on Metronome, Enjoyment and Distractions

More than occasionally I regularly have what may sound like a hard-core method but oddly find it relaxing and stimulating at the same time to have that metronome on for a long time. Practising with no break whatsoever for 15 minutes save an occasional bar or two, is a LONG time, but reckon I keep it going for double and more.

There is no way I would do this if I wasn’t practicing around the figure in question, nor if I didn’t enjoy doing it.

Donna Dahl - Drummer

Taking A Break

Sometimes when I need a break, but am in the zen of the moment I’ll do 8th notes (1 & 2) but leave silent the “&” of the 2nd count, while I swig my beverage, eat chocolate, etc; I find myself doing whether or not using the metronome. Increasingly I will intentionally take a few minutes to practice while I’m distracted with something else. The hardest is talking to my children. Truly this is practicing around something, and done only for short periods. I always recall venerable Twin Cities jazz musician Jimmy Hamilton relating that when he was learning to conduct “they had you do it constantly” including while he was talking, walking, etc;

When gigging of course there may be many distractions, so it applies.

About Donna Dahl

Donna Dahl is a drummer who became a singer / songwriter. In recent times she has returned to the study of her first love, drums. Currently Dahl is involved in teaching drums, recording and composing, appearing live most often as a singing drummer and singer/songwriter with Thorny Swale, a blend of Twin Cities and Wisconsin players.
Donna Dahl
Dahl sings regularly with the St. Augustine Latin Mass Choir of South St. Paul, Mn and is a member of MAS (Mn Association of Songwriters)

Related Links

If you want to find out more about drums and percussion? If so, you can find articles and tutorials on our Drums and Percussion Articles page.

Useful Links

Would you like to join in the discussion about drums, percussion and performance? For that matter, just about any music-related subject? Then join our music community!

You might also find our Performance Board particularly useful.

To help you to understand specific terms, take a look at our Music Glossary. It has extensive descriptions of music technology terms and concepts. It also contains entries about music theory and terms from across the music industry including music marketing and music promotion.

Become A Contributor To The Songstuff Music Library

Contributors Wanted

Are you an experienced drummer or percussionist? Or perhaps you have in-depth knowledge about drum maintenance? Maybe there are specifics about taking drum gear on the road that you could contribute? Have you worked as a drumming or percussionist session musician? Would you be interested in helping musicians to build their skills and understanding by contributing demonstration videos, reviews, articles and tutorials to the Songstuff music library? We rely upon musicians, and people working within the music industry, being willing to contribute to our knowledge base.

As well as contributions to our music library, we feature contributions in our site blogs and social media portals. In particular, we add video contributions to the Songstuff Channel on YouTube.

Please contact us and we can explore the possibility of you joining our contributors asap.

Songstuff Media Player

If you would like to listen to some awesome indie music while you browse, just open our media player. It opens in another window (or tab) so your playlist can play uninterrupted as you browse.

Open the Songstuff Media Player.

Playlists are curated by SSUK for the Independent Music Stage and Songstuff.